Oh come on! Did you really expect lush strings and beautiful orchestrations at the Young Vic?! On Tuesday I sat through 'Oliver!' at Drury Lane; a ponderous, leaden supertanker of a production, weighed down by its own scale. By contrast, AGYG is light, inventive and most-of-all, great fun. It's a tribute to all concerned that never once did Betty Hutton, Howard Keel or (thank God) Ethel Merman come to mind. Unlike Mr Hewitt et al, I don't go to the fringe to come out whistling the sets. If you want juggernaut theatre, stick with Lloyd Webber and Mackintosh. - Paul Arthur
20 Dec 09
What great fun this show is. It was quirky, witty and thoroughly enjoyable. Not sure about some of the sets, all a bit basic, or the newsreels which added nothing but the performances were good. Jane Horrocks isn't the greatest singer but she does act well and brings a real warmth to Annie, although a little bit of Bubbles from Ab Fab came over from time to time. Julian Ovenden certainly can sing and does so brilliantly. The two together have great chemistry which adds to the enjoyment and what a score. The kind of show that makes you leave the theatre humming the tunes. - Paul Wallis
11 Dec 09
I don't think I've ever seen a show so affected by the decisions of the director and designer. Setting it in the 1950s is pointless and the post interval newsreel demonstrates a very shaky grasp of 20th century history (unless Annie is a timelord). The set is low budget in the extreme with obvious rip-offs of Joseph and the musical accompaniment of just four pianos all combines to lend the show the air of a church hall am-dram. Irving Berlin's score and witty lyrics just about survive and the cast give it everything. Julian Ovenden has a wonderful voice but it is not ideally suited to Berlin whilst Jane Horrocks proves that she is a great comedienne but only an adequate singer. The Young Vic also earns condemnation for a shambolic unreserved seating policy which created mass confusion and a ridiculously crowded foyer. The Chocolate Factory bowed to criticism; it's about time the Young Vic followed suit. - David Baxter
02 Dec 09
I know not everyone likes this production but I found it a really enjoyable show. - CAA
23 Nov 09
I went back again, not because I was so enthralled the first time, but because two tickets came my way and so I took two friends. The first time I saw it I gave the cast the benefit of the doubt as, if I remember rightly, it was still in preview. Nothing's changed, it still has an overwhelming whiff of the AmDram about it, except of course for Julian Ovenden and the wonderful John Marquez who's character Charlie, for me, steals the show. His every move and gesture is mesmerising.
10 Nov 09
This show is awesome, if you're looking for broadway production standards, don't expect it from a show miles from the west end with such low ticket prices. The production is minimal and creatively put together, Horrocks is brilliant, totally stealing the show in my opinion but my other half was pretty smitten by Mr. Ovenden. If you're looking for Broadway production standards, don't expect it from a show miles from the west end with such low ticket prices, if you're looking for a thoroughly entertaining show then this will keep you engaged throughout - Kieran
06 Nov 09
How can this show deserve one star? Anyone who put that has no sense of humour - this is a brilliant new take on the classic. The songs are catchy and leave you singing them for a long time afterwards - the four piano's were a great idea, fun and original. Space on the relatively small stage was well used - the conveyor belt idea was very unique and memorable and worked very well. The choreography was fun, as were the bright, new-fashioned costumes. The cast were very strong- Horrocks had a fantastic voice and a great personality. She portrayed Annie in a new and innovative way, and Annie's sidekick, Jessie, is very endearing. Ovenden wowed with his superb voice and an excellent portrayal of the vain Frank Butler, Annie's sweetheart and rival. One tip - sit near to the centre if possible, otherwise it is quite difficult to see everythingthat goes on on stage, especially in the upper 'window'. It is a sparkling new take on this show and is thoroughly enjoyable. Unless you have no sense of humour, like those people who rated this one star.
- Minus R
01 Nov 09
Terrible set, Horrocks isnt great and the 4 piano accompaniment gives it the flavour of a school production. However, the male lead (Julian Ovenden) is going to be a star - gorgeous, sexy, and can sing. - addicted to theatre
28 Oct 09
Lets get things straight, this is a production at the young vic not in the west end, so if you expect big production special effects you'll be disappointed. If you go looking for a wonderful night out with an excellent cast and some of the best show tunes ever written then you won't be disappointed. Horrocks is as mad as ever, but gleefully so. - Paul
26 Oct 09
Despite the many flaws in this production, I really, really enjoyed this show. Yes, the set, lighting and costumes are dire, and sitting where I was, I missed most of the bedroom action (must go again to fully catch Julian Ovenden's pecs!) BUT -
I really enjoyed Jane Horrocks's take on the show. No, she's not Ethel Merman but her quirky portrayal was very endearing. And Julian Ovenden really MUST get some high profile roles after this - his effect on the ladies (and some men) in the audience was tangible. His voice is fantastic too, and I am regretting not going to "Margeurite" because Ms Henshall was in it....Great performances by some support members (although Buffalo Bill and Sitting Bull were just WRONG).
Sitting at the front, I particularly appreciated the pianists and their contribution to the show. All in all, like another reviewer, I had a huge smile on my face when I came out. I would have given it 5 stars if the sightlines and some of the production values weren't so dire....
- Helen Brown
24 Oct 09
‘The best thing for YOU ...’ sings Annie Oakley in the rootin' shootin' tuner Annie Get Your Gun ‘... would be ME.’ The best thing for YOU, dear Whatsonstage.com reader, would be to stay away from this terrible production. +++
Written in 1946 by the great Irving Berlin and specifically for its star Ethel Merman, it chronicles the 1880’s rivalry-then-love-affair between Ohio amateur sharpshooter Annie Oakley and champion Frank Butler. +++
In the Young Vic’s bizarre production, by opera director Richard Jones, it’s somehow transposed to a formica-and-vinyl Midwest diner like a leftover set from ‘Happy Days’, although in a hallucinogenic second-act opener Annie is shown in jerky 8mm footage on a kind of Evita-esque Rainbow Tour meeting Churchill, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and de Gaulle.
Featuring showtune standards like ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’, ‘Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better’ and ‘The Girl That I Marry’ the lush, broad, inventive Berlin score is - literally - hammered into submission by the substitution of an orchestra with four upright saloon-bar pianos built into the front of the stage.
The plot carries us across the sweeping Ohio prairies and on a tour of most of the Wild West. The Young Vic is a large and flexible space, but ludicriously-monickered designer Ultz (real name: David Fisher) reduces this to an extraordinary horizontal slit in what looks like Portakabin siding, with the movement cramped into about ten feet depth of stage. The sight lines are so appalling that the final clinch between Annie and Frank, in an upstairs room the size of a broom cupboard, is invisible to more than half the audience.
Merman's voice famously filled theatres without a microphone and she was known as "leather lungs", but by comparison Horrocks has a couple of Tesco teabags flapping inside her puny chest, and her singing is criminally underpowered for the belted standards, nor is it any more appealing in the ballads.
She seems beyond uncomfortable. Pitching the role as a scruffy waif in an early Pauline Fowler wig, she’s barely as tall as her Remington rifle which she wields like it was a caber in the Highland Games rather than an extension of her own right arm. She also has a tendency to compensate for her one-dimensional acting by gurning at the audience, most of whom seemed to know her only as ‘Bubble’ from AbFab.
Julian Ovenden looks charming as Frank Butler, and his fluting tenor carries the tunes beautifully. Too beautifully, perhaps, since Frank’s a rawer and more rambunctious character than this rather polite performance suggests.
There’s a willing and capable ensemble, too few in number for the size of the show, but good contributions from Liza Sadovy as a particularly grim circus harpy, and John Marquez as a Brooklyn showman out of his comfort zone in the wild West.
It’s such a waste. This is a show so ripe for revival, with tunes you could actually go IN to the theatre humming, they are so well-loved, and it deserves the kind of treatment Trevor Nunn gave ‘Oklahoma’ at the National, not this clapboarded ham-fisted high-school rendition. +++ more reviews at www.londonist.com and www.blowstar.blogspot.com +++ - JohnnyFox
22 Oct 09
This show was fantastic, I grinned from curtain up to curtain down and barely managed not to channel Ethel Merman! The energy of the show was unsurpassed. I have no idea what show some of the above reviewers were at. - Robert
21 Oct 09
Terrible production. The worst choreography, direction and design I have seen in years. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.
- David S
20 Oct 09
Another overly-conceptualised show (see All's Well... for details) which gets in the way of a great musical. The actors struggle to negotiate the small designed space and the sightlines are really poor. The concept would be clever for the Fringe but looks cheap and distracting at £30/ticket. Thank God for Jane Horrocks and Julian Ovenden who are wonderful and make the show worthwhile!
Just don't get me started on having to queue for 40 minutes to get in... - dgr1
20 Oct 09
Fabulous, inventive, production of an inferior musical only revived for its crowd pleasing numbers. Ovenden superb...shame about the TV ad queen and her lapses into cartoonish, northern, quacking. - Coral
20 Oct 09
Ovendon and Horrocks are excellent, but the production is as drab as Ultz' vile set. - pwh1980
19 Oct 09
Probably the best show I've seen this year. Brilliantly inventive production and fine perfomances. I sat there with a huge grin all the way through and laughed and cried. I'm puzzled by how people seem to have totally misunderstood Richard Jones brilliant reworking and refocusing of the piece in their views about how "musical theatre" should traditionally be done. - Steve L
19 Oct 09
Probably the worst show I have seen this year. How it deserves five stars is completely beyond me. The sightlines of the set are dreadful. The choreography is non-existent. What should be a lush Broadway score is reduced to four piano. This is a show about "Show Business" and there is precious little Show Business in a show with no orchestra, no choreography and a leading lady who can neither act nor sing the role properly. The period the show is set in wanders all over the place, ostensibly the 1950s but containing newsreel footage of Hitler (40s), Stalin (40s), Chairman Mao (60s), Fifties costumes and hairstyles, a Mickey Mouse Club T shirt (1955 at the earliest). Seating is unallocated leading to an unholy scrum in the auditorium. The whole evening feels cheap and nasty, and is spectacularly disappointing. No sparkle, no pizzaz - and no programmes either! - Exit, Pursued by a Bear
19 Oct 09
I really think it's a 4, but there needs to be some balance against the assaults. It's a clever, funny and reflective production. - Gary Thomas
19 Oct 09
By far one of the best fringe production I've seen for a long time. The cast is superb and the orchestra (four pianos) sounds amazing. An absolutely new take on an old classic. Well done! Go and see for yourself. It's worth the money. - Frank
19 Oct 09
Oh dear, when will designers have more consideration for their audience? It’s happened a few times at the National’s Lyttleton and now at the Young Vic Ultz has designed in bad sightlines for so many people; it’s hard to comment on this revival objectively. It’s an inventive tongue-in-cheek production and I particularly loved the four piano orchestra. Jane Horrocks and Julian Ovenden make great leads and these are some lovely cameos. I’d forgotten how many great numbers this show has. But such a wide high stage in such a small theatre; shameful! - Gareth James
18 Oct 09
I can't be quite as harsh as the two reviews below, but I have to say I wasn't completely convinced by this production. Firstly the letter box stage is, I would imagine, meant to be an homage to Cinemascope, or am I just being kind? The low ceiling of the set made everything feel very cramped and so the choreographer couldn't really do much else than have the cast run from side to side on what is an extremely wide stage. Julian Ovenden (what a dish) as Frank swaggers suitably as Annie's love interest. Jane Horrocks, Annie, however, looked a tad dessicated as the juvenile lead. One should however not forget that Ethel Merman played the original on Broadway! When she came to do the revival in the 70s it was nicknamed Grannie Get Your Gun! Ha! The music is provided by four, yes FOUR, slightly honky-tonk pianos and it works rather well. Doing it so differently is bound to elicit bashing from some quarters, but I think it has merit and would prove popular with a young audience if only for some of the staging tricks. Maybe schools could be encouraged to give the kids a half term treat and see one of the great classics of American musical theatre? After all, There's No Business Like Show Business! - rds
18 Oct 09
This is one of the worst things i've ever seen.
Richard Jones concept seems to be a hommage/meditation on the great 'British Ameatre Operatics Socity' tradion. Unfortunatly, the irony of it is nobody in his production can sing, dance or act (save Julian Ovingdon)...rather like there ameature counterparts.... but it's not nearly as endeering or entertaining as watching... lets say... Wimbledon Light Opera try to do Sondheim's 'Follies'.
The show could be saved by scrapping the whole thing, but have Mr Ovingdon (now obviously the new sexiest man alive, claiming the crown from Hugh Jackman) stand and sing the score concert style, whilst removing his clothes as he does it (which is essentialy what happens in the first 20 mins)... this would be FAR more entertaining than the turged awfull 2:45mins i was subjected to.
There are some interesting ideas in this prodction, however they are too few and far between to save us from Jane Horricks horrific portrail of 'Annie' and the disgusting set.
It was only half way through the first act (standing at 1hour 30mins.... i REALLY needed a wee during this) that i thought 'god, this is like watching my mates in a school play... oh god... No... surely thats not the concept... oh GOD it is... no ... stop this... STOP THIS NOOOOOOOOOOOOW!!!'
David Lan (Artistic Director of the Young Vic) saw this performance too, and i'm very interested to hear what he thought. Considering this theatre funds such unfeasably worthy plays.. such as plays with blacks, plays with gays, plays with muslims, plays with jews, plays with disabled's, etc etc why oh WHY they did a show where the moral is 'Great woman need to pretend to be terrible to get married/get the man/get on in life'.
This needs SERIOUS concideration by the Young Vic comittee and the funders of it. - Casox
08 Oct 09
Where to begin.... The last production of Annie Get Your Gun I saw was in 2005, the national tour (which closed early) and I thought this new production starring Jane Horricks and directed by Richard Jones could not worse than the dreadful touring version... I was wrong.
I am not sure in what 'era' this production has been set, but I am assuming none of the creative team do either. This has got to be one of the ugliest scenic designs (Ultz) ever to be put onto the London stage. We are forced to look at a set consisting of brown laminated walls for the entire evening. The only slight change is when some fabric drops are released from the paneled ceiling (completely covered) which can only be described as a room upholstered with a 5 year olds pajama's. I was very tempted to leave a note in the 'feedback box' saying, "get a new scenic designer ASAP". The lighting is not much better. I do sympathize a little with Mimi Jordan Sherin as there is NO space above the stage to hang anything as it is completely covered with roof tiles. Then again how can a lighting designer even contemplate giving into this scenic design. I am not even going to bother going into any details, anyone lighting the actors with bright flood lights from the front of the stage is just mean.
Phillipe Giraudeau's staging of "Sun In The Morning And The Moon At Night" is the worst choreography EVER created! The cast look so embarrassed and understandably - I would have faked an injury to get out of the number before the 1st preview. The producer should cut the choreographer's fee in half as there is no choreography.
Jane Horricks copes with the role but her voice is no where near strong enough. As she said on TV she sings it as Judy Garland but she simply just doesn't have enough power. Her characterization starts off well but in ACT 2 we just end up with 'Bubbles' from Ab Fab. One great thing about the touring production was the wonderful Rebecca Thornhill who played Annie. The only saving grace in this production in the fantastic, magnetic Julian Ovendon.
I have no idea what the point is of doing a NEW production of this fantastic show is when all we are seeing is a badly directed, poorly designed product. I really feel sorry for the cast. - Mr Hewitt
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